Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Theory of Everything: Movie Review


The dramatic and turbulent life of Stephen Hawking.
Celebrated scientist Stephen Hawking is the subject of the weepy romantic drama biopic The Theory of Everything. In what is presumably a good choice for the film, as it attempts to appeal to everyone, it focuses on his personal life as opposed to his scientific life. Allowing Jane Hawking (Felicity Jones) to be just as important a character as Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne). The two young Brits give star-making performances as husband and wife. 2014

Directed by: James Marsh

Screenplay by: Anthony McCarten
Based on the book by Jane Hawking

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones

Felicity Jones stars as Jane Wilde and Eddie Redmayne
stars as Stephen Hawking. Courtesy of eOne Films.
Redmayne has been praised by Professor Hawking himself saying that there were certain points when he thought he was watching himself. Taking place over a couple of decades, it follows Hawking from eager physics student to a young man with a terminal motor neuron disease diagnosis to year after year with failing muscles and more failing muscles. But what I loved about Redmayne's performance was the subtle glances and smiles when he's flirting with a girl. It's about knowing when to go with the understated emotions while also playing Hawking to the severest of his disabilities.

While concentrating on the romance of Jane and Stephen, the film glossed over many years and milestones in a frustrating need to hit every significant emotional moment – high and low. It gets unbelievably sad, especially with Hawking's baby boy at the top of the stairs but the debilitated father is unable to get to him. But then it moves forward finding a scene getting to showcase Hawking's dry wit.

Harry Lloyd stars as Brian and Eddie Redmayne stars as
Stephen Hawking. Courtesy of eOne Films.
I especially enjoyed Harry Lloyd as Hawking's university friend Brian. He had a fantastic reaction to the news of Hawking's diagnosis – trying to be funny but then realizing how tragic the news is. He very effectively balanced the humour and the serious underlying emotion in the scene. And then he got to break the news to Jane.

After exhausting viewers sympathies with the continuing deterioration of Hawking's physical health, we got to focus on Jane. I have loved Felicity Jones in the past with her ability to portray an innocent beauty, but Jane Hawking is probably one of her most complex characterizations to date. She's very easy to connect to her with her devotion to Stephen after falling in love with him before his diagnosis but the years of being a care-giver wear on her, and then after technology catches up, she's no longer sure what her role is, but at all times she's going to stay true to herself first. On a simple level, she maintains her religion despite Hawking's atheistic tendencies.

The film is adapted from Jane Hawking's autobiography and Stephen Hawking was consulted with on various points throughout the film. It gives it an authentic feel and Hawking's influence allowed the film to include his scientific theories in easy-to-digest sentences. The interlaying of Hawking's genius with his extreme impairments are heavy-handed. But they also have to make sure the film is as dramatic as possible to as many people as possible.

It can be frustrating as we approach the end because the film has been advertised as “romantic”, “a triumph of the human spirit” and “heart-warming” and I disagree with that. It could have been a triumph of the human spirit if the film focused on his professional accomplishments, but it didn't. It is only about their marriage and it may serve viewers well to read up on that before being let down by the realities of life.

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Selma (2014) - The warm, welcoming, commanding presence of Martin Luther King marches forward.

Big Eyes (2014) - Going against the grain, “Big Eyes” finds success in the intersection between honest emotion and deceitful comedy.